God-given Green Light

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, May 31, 2015
Based Upon Judges 14:3-4

Ordained plan or permissive plan. Under which are you operating?

“Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.”

The Lord’s will is broader in its scope than most of us understand. His thoughts are far above our thoughts and His ways are above our ways.

The Lord’s will is broader in its scope than most of us understand. His thoughts are far above our thoughts and His ways are above our ways. There is an aspect of His will that can be considered as the ideal. For example, God created humankind to live perfect lives and intended that Adam and Eve pass the test at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. His purpose was that we never sin, and that we would live eternally. As you know well, based on your own experience, sin did enter the world; therefore, God’s original intention was not met. If God were a human being, this would be the end of the story. Since He is not, this is where the arm of the Lord is revealed.

The Lord had a plan from eternity past that would immediately be enacted when humans chose to sin. We were not on an inevitable rollercoaster toward sin that we could not escape, but the Lord knew what choice we would make, therefore He had a plan. The Son of God would become a human being, live a perfect life, die a perfect substitutionary death, and rise again to minister for us in heaven. This plan, albeit beautiful, was only necessary because of the choice Adam made in Eden to defy His Lord. This fit more into God’s permissive will, though He was active in orchestrating it.

There are different versions of the Lord’s permissive will (as we understand it), which He allowed in order for His ultimate purposes to be realized. These versions would be painful for those involved, but if they accomplished their perfect work, the pain would drive God’s people to Him. For instance, the Lord never intended for Israel to have a human king, but He allowed it. He never intended that human beings ever divorce, but under certain circumstances, though it may not be expedient, it is permitted. God never intended that we consume the flesh of dead animals for food (or living ones for that matter), but because of certain environmental issues after the flood, along with the griping and murmuring of His children in the wilderness, He allowed certain types for a season.

green light on pole

Such was the case with Samson. God told him at the beginning of his ministry what his plans for the Philistines were. He understood that Samson would be slow at carrying out his intended purpose; therefore, God figured it all into the equation. He wanted a wife that his parents disapproved of because of the clear counsel of God against marrying uncircumcised, ungodly people, yet the Bible says the Lord was leading him. God did not intend that he ever marry that woman, but knew what choice he would make, therefore the Lord allowed it so his ultimate purpose could be realized. In the end, through much turmoil and unnecessary pain, Samson fulfilled the Lord’s will.

Here is the simple question for the day. Will you accept the Lord’s will for your life? There are two ways for it to be accomplished, the second of which is long and painful. I personally like the idea of allowing the Lord to perform His ideal in my life, but He loves me enough to do whatever it takes to save me; even if I need His permissive will to be done.




Stand On The Rock

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, May 25, 2015
Based Upon Luke 6:47–49

It’s one thing to nod, raise our hands toward heaven with our eyes closed as if carried away in ecstasy saying, “Amen” to the Word of God, but it is another thing altogether to bow our heads and lives in humble submission to the Word. The Bible says: “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:47–49).

The Bible is full of examples of people who chose to model their lives after God’s revelation. There are stalwart characters like Abel who heard the command of God, recognizing the blessing of salvation that chose to surrender themselves Him as living sacrifices. There are those like Enoch who loved nothing more than to walk and talk with Jesus and consistently told Him all about his life’s struggles and triumphs. There are those like Hannah who would stop at nothing to receive the richest blessings heaven could offer, and then turn right around and yield the same blessings into God’s care. There are those like Anna whose highest honor and joy was to live in the presence of God and share the message of Jesus with as many people as would listen. There are those like Elisha who would never allow the power of God to be present without receiving all of it by faith. These and others like them are they of whom the Bible says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; That bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; That saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7). These are they who kept the commandments of God and had the faith of Jesus.

Everyday of our lives we are faced with two choices: We can either model our loves after the similitude of wickedness, which is transient and combustible, or we can emulate the rich characters who daily built their lives upon the foundation of the world itself, Jesus Christ.

With the constant threat of hurricanes and other storms around the world in the last days, we can well appreciate the need to feel secure. All that we have and much of what we think is immovable can quickly be swept away. When the waves of life begin to surge steadily toward our spiritual experiences are we safe? Will we be able to stand the earth shattering events that will most certainly test all of our faith? If we build upon the sure Foundation, Jesus Christ, no trial or difficulty will ruin us. No matter how rough things become, if we continually build our lives upon God and His Word, He will undergird us and we will remain faithful until Jesus returns.




Giving Church Another Shot

“Nones” reject traditional, organized religion for real, Spirit-filled worship and loving people.

It’s all over Facebook, Twitter, CNN and more. The church is shrinking. Pew Research Center released a study that showed that the group of people identifying as Christians in the United States has shrunk by eight percent. This is a serious finding because it suggests that more and more people are leaving the church.

The study has the religious community in an uproar. Yet, this conversation has actually been going on for some time now. When speaking of non-church goers in his book Unchristian, Barna Research Group’s David Kinnaman says, “they think Christians no longer represent what Jesus had in mind, that Christianity in our society is not what it was meant to be.” In a sermon series on the topic Pastor Michael Kelly commented saying, “While individuals are being gunned down, the church is worried about drums.”

There is so much discussion and debate on this issue and all types of statistics, but why not get it straight from the horse’s mouth? Why not ask people who do not go to church why they do not go?

Meet Marlon.

Marlon

Marlon is a 35 year-old musician from Bakersfield. He has been married for eight years, and he and his wife have three kids. He is a fourth generation Seventh-day Adventist Christian who rarely attends church, although he did two months ago for a family reunion event. He generally attends once every other month, but he does not go regularly because–brace yourself–“there’s nothing there.”

What’s missing, we asked? “[T]he Spirit of the thing” is gone,” Marlon said. The church has lost “the compassion for the people that come through the door.”

Meet Maurice.

Maurice[1]

Maurice is a 35 year-old construction worker from Pittsburgh. He is divorced, but lives with his girlfriend and their three kids. Having been a member of a Baptist church, then a Lutheran church, then another Baptist church, and most recently a Seventh-day Adventist Church, Maurice says he is “caught in the middle. I don’t know, but I know there’s a God.”

He has not been to church in three months and may go twice a year. When asked why he does not go he said, “I don’t feel the love…it’s more about what you got and what you don’t got more than a relationship with God.”

Meet Tamika.

Tamika

Tamika, a 31 year-old Community Organizer and Birth Worker (Doula) from Atlanta has been married for four years, and she and her husband have two kids. Tamika was raised in Baptist and Pentecostal settings, but said she stopped going to church in college when it became more about “getting” (referring to word of faith and prosperity theology) than God and developing a relationship with Him. On the other hand, she attended other churches that were “oppressive” and “judgmental.” She has not been to church in years, but did go for a funeral in 2012. She intimates that social and political consciousness is what she is missing from church, along with critical biblical and theological studies that empower people to improve their personal lives and make the world a better place.

What was strikingly similar was what they are watching on the news, how they get their music and how they describe their spirituality. All of them commented that they are paying close attention to stories of suspicious, unjustified deaths of Black males around the country. All of them receive the majority of their music from some streaming service like Spotify or iHeart Radio. And all of them describe themselves as devout seekers of God, spiritual understanding, truth, and personal growth. While their approaches differ, their quests are all authentic and vibrant.

The world is changing fast. Five years ago iTunes radio did not even exist. Five years later, people feel like they can not live without it. But it is not just the music that is streaming. Everything is streaming. The news is streaming. The NBA Playoffs is streaming. Even churches are streaming. And while the world is moving and streaming at such a rapid pace the systems of power and dominance are shifting all around us as well. People are not waiting for the little local church to figure it out. Young people all around the world are moving on to find the tools that will fit them for their journey, whether the church is willing and able to help or not.

What will the church do to respond to these serious seekers? Will we hold on to disjointed methods of communication while unlimited media can be streamed at the push of a button? Will we continue to stifle authentic cultural expression while our youth are flocking to the local cafe for open-mic night? Will we refuse to love the unlovable even though Christ stretched his arms wide to embrace them? Hopefully not for long because He’s coming back really soon to see how we treated the rest of his children.

The Invitation

People often say, “Don’t look at people. Look at Jesus.” I will be the first to say that is a cop-out too readily used to absolve people’s bad behavior. Nevertheless, we are still left with the alternative. And whenever I look to Jesus, I am always convicted and inspired. It makes me think of this text:

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. (Luke 4:16-20 NIV)

What many people forget about this text is that right after this scene, the church leaders and longtime members actually tried to throw Jesus off a cliff (see verse 29). I am certain we have never seen that level of anger and drama in our churches! It has not become that bad! But, the drama did not deter Jesus. He saw the church as it should be, not as it was. Even though He went to church regularly, He was careful to do the things that truly represented the Spirit and love of the Father. And thus He established a new church based on these principles.

Even though He went to church regularly, He was careful to do the things that truly represented the Spirit and love of the Father.

The church I joined is the church that Jesus described: committed to serving the poor, liberating people from prison (internal and external), healing people’s brokenness and blindness, and promoting equality in our world. That is the church Jesus established, and that is the church I joined. We do not always look like it. We do not always act like it. But I am not the least bit distracted or deterred from what Jesus sent us to do. I want all of my friends to help me with this amazing mission. I cannot possibly do this by myself. After all, every journey is so much more fun with friends.




Not So Gently Down The Stream

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, May 24, 2015
Based Upon John 6:15-21

I’d like to share an incredible story with you. The Bible says: “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.” (John 6:15–21).

I told you this was an incredible story. Now, what can we learn from it? Let me ask you a question: Have you ever embarked upon a day or some journey in life without Jesus? Or, have you ever been with Jesus at a point in time and then realized along the way that you did not welcome Him into your present experience? Was it a dark hour in your life? Did the winds of life arise against you as you rowed your spiritual boat against the strong currents of trials and tribulations? Maybe you chose a mate without asking God His view of the matter and it became the relationship from the pit. Perhaps you ventured into a disagreement between two other people, thinking you could help without first seeking divine aid, and suddenly it seemed you were the problem. Perchance you entered into business negotiations with some person or entity that became a disaster, because of a technicality in the contract you never bargained for.

It is possible that you got up one morning, and because you thought you had no time for devotion with God, you rushed out into your day planning to catch up with God another time, and everything seemed to go wrong. And, so you rowed-and-rowed your boat some more, not-so-gently down the stream, doing your level-best to get through your day or that complicated problem, only to realize the were are getting nowhere fast. What should you do?

There are times in our lives where many of us neglect our time with God and life has its way with us. We become bogged down, beaten, and bloodied by circumstances that otherwise would have been handled by God’s grace. The trials, though they must invariably come, would have been met with the power of God and His ability to build our characters for His glory, as we are refined as pure gold. In cases like these, what should we do? What can we do?

Look up.

We must look up and perceive the presence of God. But, when we see Him walking effortlessly upon our difficulties, instead of being fearful that He will indict or punish us, we must not fear. We have the privilege of receiving Him willingly into our spiritual ship and immediately, we will arrive at the place where He wills for us to be. When we make it a priority to welcome God into our experience, He will always guide us safely through the trials we must certainly face, and will ultimately carry us to our destination—eternity with Him.




Mindful Mary

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Based Upon Luke 10:38-42

Ladies and gentlemen, get your minds right! So many things in this life vie for our attention that, if we make them our focus, we will never invest precious time with God. Sometimes even noble things can detract from that which is vital. There is a difference.

Here’s a story to illustrate the point: Jesus went to visit His friends Mary and Martha as He often had. Martha, being the worker-bee that she was, buzzed about performing a multiplicity of duties. Perhaps she was tidying the place, cooking, making the place more comfortable for her divine Guest, and other things. She wanted everything to be just right. As is the case with many women who love to entertain, Martha began to get tired and burned out.

Meanwhile, Mary was sitting with Jesus, hanging on every word He spoke.

Martha’s working. Mary’s sitting. Jesus is watching this all unfold. Once Martha had enough of her sister’s apparent laziness, she implores Jesus to correct her lazy sister and make her help out, instead of just sitting around. However, Jesus taught a simple, pointed lesson in His response: “And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41–42).

Jesus’ response was brilliant! More than that, it was very instructive. Both sisters had the incredible privilege of having Jesus around. One sister chose to make herself busy working for Jesus, and with whatever leftover energy she had, she intended to enjoy His company. The other sister decided to enjoy Jesus’ company first, and then all else would be handled. So, here’s my question: What is your priority? Are you burdened by the many noble duties you need to perform for the Lord? Do you awaken every morning weary, because you need to feed the hungry, visit the sick, clothe the naked, or some other very important thing? If so, learn a lesson from Mary. She was not lazy. Mary understood that the vital connection with Jesus was in higher priority than the noble activity of working for Him.

Mary understood that the vital connection with Jesus was in higher priority than the noble activity of working for Him.

When these two are out of order, we become disgruntled actors who criticize the actions or inactions of others. But, when we put ample time in the presence of Jesus first, we are then energized by His Spirit to do good service for others.

So, ladies and gentlemen, get your minds right. Place God in first priority, every single day, and in His strength, go forth and be of service to your communities, and to the world.




Judging Private Praise

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Based Upon Luke 7:36-50

Picture the scene: Simon the Pharisee has a get-together at his home and Jesus is invited. Jesus probably lounges in the customary manner on something like a chaise lounger with his left arm or elbow resting on the table. A woman with a sordid past obviously came to the gathering with an agenda–to honor Jesus. So, with all of her heart she unsealed the container of precious perfume oil and began doting on Christ. I can imagine that every moment she passed while in Jesus’ presence must have felt as though weights of oppression, bad choices, shame, pain, fear, and weakness were falling off. Her tears must have flowed with the relief of a prisoner set free from a mandatory life sentence with all charges dropped. She worshipped; she cried; she reflected; all that was around her was lost in a haze of loving commitment to her King.

As the sweet aroma of this woman’s worship wafted into the air, a competing miasma of hypocrisy also permeated the house. The host, who should have been elated that his guests were well-entertained, chose rather to criticize a lowly woman’s worship.

Whenever we choose to rate someone’s private worship experience, we are on the wrong path. Not only do we position ourselves in the worshipper’s business, but we also blasphemously elevate ourselves into Almighty God’s business.

The Pharisee thought, “…This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39). Of course, Jesus dealt with this man’s pride as he set himself up as a judge of this woman, and as a judge of his Creator. You can read Jesus’ response in our theme text.

I would like to say, what many have left unsaid: This same proud Pharisee, supposedly of the elite class of religious leaders of his day, somehow forgot from whence he had come. This is often the case when power-drunk men choose to subjugate women. Let me let you in on two not-so-little secrets: This woman was the same Mary whom God honored to be the first at the tomb on resurrection morning. She was the one given the first charge to preach a risen Savior. How ironic! Now, Simon the Pharisee is none other than Simon the leper! That’s right, folks! The man who proudly wore religious garb as a covering of his sepulchre-like heart was once relegated to a colony of unclean lepers. Like all of the others who were unfortunately despised and rejected due to their horrid, contagious state, the Pharisee knew what it was to be judged, maligned, and outcast. Hence, the reason Jesus needed to deal with Him so directly in His parable. Simon forgot how to be thankful. Simon forgot the joy of being healed and forgiven. Consequently, he chose to set himself up as judge of a worshipful woman, rather than supporting her gratitude. When we forget how good God has been to us, we are in danger of telling others how to, and how not to use their fragrant gifts in honor of God.

For very good reason, the Holy Spirit had holy men to record this story. It is a lesson for us all. When God has been so good to us that He would condescend to forgive us of our sins, it is our privilege to give Him our all, and take two steps back to allow others to do the same. Amen.




Weep Not: A Word For The Woman In Ruins

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, May 4, 2015
Based Upon Luke 11:11-17

Weep not! Can you imagine hearing those two, seemingly insignificant words from the mouth of Christ? If someone says, “Don’t cry” after you break a favorite vase, stub your toe on a chair leg, or accidentally scrape the paint of your new car, then OK. But for a widowed mother to hear that when her only son is dead, that must have been difficult.

There are times in our lives when it seems things cannot get any worse. You have had those experiences. You lose your job two weeks before you close on your dream house, which you have waited 20 years to buy. You find out your cousin has stage-four metastatic breast cancer. You find out that your precious daughter has been keeping a secret: she’s pregnant and is not sure which one of the four men she has been sexually active with over the past few months is the father. You realize that your husband has been seeing another woman. Oh, and that other woman is your best friend from the graduating class of 1976. Many are the trials we endure while living on this renegade planet. But scarcely can it be described when the trial is the death of your only beloved son!

Can you imagine the scene? You are a widow whose only son is about to be buried. Jesus comes by and tells you not to cry. How do you feel in that moment? Do you wish He would go away and allow you to mourn? Do you recognize that it’s Christ who’s speaking and immediately have hopes of a miracle that will change your life forever? Fortunately, this woman did not need too much time to think or feel. The Master immediately spoke to the mind of a dead boy whom He had created, and the same effulgent power emanated through His command that spoke the worlds into existence, and the boy came to life again. The One who would not many years later give His life for us on a cruel cross, commanded that this boy receive his life and that joy would return to a grieving mother.

Though trials must certainly come, take courage that the Lord always has a word to speak into your life. His word is power.

His word is strength. His word is love. His word is holiness. His word is rest. Embrace His word and expect the miracle of grace to unfold in your life




Encouraging Expectations

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, May 3, 2015
Based upon: Luke 1:39-45

Women are known to be very body aware. They often know when something is going very wrong inside, and even know when something is going quite well. Sometimes the sense of what might be going on inside can alert her to the need to see a doctor. At other times, these feelings drive euphoria and give a general sense of wellbeing; that something great is happening.

Not long after the angel visited Mary with great news of the Messiah’s conception, she travelled to Juda to see her cousin, Elisabeth. She entered the house and called to Elisabeth, who was then miraculously six months pregnant. As she heard Mary’s salutation, something unusual and invigorating happened inside. Elisabeth’s baby leaped! I have been told how amazing it feels when a child moves inside the womb. While it can be painful at times for women with fibroids or other complications, most movements, I am told, are amazing. To have a little life moving around inside is indescribable.

However, in this case, baby John’s movement was much more. There was a spiritual exchange that God created here. Mary, who was filled with the Spirit and pregnant with the Son of God spoke. Elisabeth, who was pregnant with the forerunner of Christ’s earthly ministry and much more, heard Mary’s voice. As the sound waves traveled through the air and entered Elisabeth’s ear canal, her eardrum began to vibrate. Those vibrations were handed off through three little bones to her inner ear via tiny hairs, which were then picked up by a nerve that signaled her brain that there was a message for her. Her brain distinguished, deciphered, and recognized those electrical impulses, and as she heard the voice of her dear cousin, the boy leaped inside, and she was filled with the Holy Ghost. Did you get that? She heard the voice of her dear cousin, the boy leaped inside, and she was filled with the Holy Ghost. What an amazing sequence of events. What an amazing experience for these women of God to have that they could share with generations to come! In kindred spirit, they both experienced their God at the deepest of levels, and knew without doubt that He was present.

As I reflect upon this story I’m enraptured, and it occurs to me that we must never underestimate the special ways God communicates His love and essence to women. Does He speak to men? Yes! Does He manifest Himself to us? Yes! Yet, we must not fail to realize that as different as men are from women, so are some of our experiences with our God. Just as my wife has a womb and I do not, so does she have experiences with God that I do not, because we were designed differently.

For me, the unsung moral of this story is that I would do well to support and embrace the experiences of holy women and their special encounters with God. In the same way we have the record of these women’s experiences to give us courage thousands of years later, we can take courage in the testimonies of women in our day. Relish those testimonies, and then God for them.




Hope And Justice For Baltimore

Finally the possibility for justice.

I was signally moved on this morning as I watched the state attorney for the city of Baltimore charge the six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. My heart has been heavy for this season of upheaval in Charm City, but as I watched CNN and heard the indictment read, I fought back the tears. For the past several days I watched as the city where I pastored for eleven years, went up in flames. People reached a boiling point for the years of police brutality that have been unaddressed and unchecked.

What was so frightening was that Freddie Gray simply made eye contact with the officers, who saw that as enough of a reason to pursue and arrest him. He was not committing a crime, he was not selling drugs, or robbing anyone, and there was no probable cause for all the commotion that led to his arrest and untimely death. It is the symbol of legalized thuggery that irresponsible law enforcement officers engage in that mimics gangers who you dare not look at in the wrong way, lest you loose your life.

The unparalleled outcry was not just about what happened in Baltimore but about what has been happening to Black people at the hands of law enforcement and where it appears that we are animals to be hunted. The law, which promises equal protection for all, has somehow evaded our communities. Blacks families who have lost loved ones while in police custody have not seen anything remotely resembling justice.

The big picture shows Blacks being incarcerated at a higher rate that any other race. It shows Blacks serving major time on death row for crimes thy did not commit, several now being released with new DNA evidence. Blacks who are stopped, harassed, and arrested by law enforcement for no apparent reason. What we saw in Baltimore over the past several days is a major statement from a community who had seen enough and had enough of bad policing.

Now I must say, that I have met with commissioner Batts at police headquarters and he is a good man with tremendous leadership skills. He has a heart for justice and a proven track record for solid leadership. His task is to reform the police department and revamp their perception within the community. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake visited my church on several occasions while I pastored in Baltimore and is a woman of high integrity. She does not just rest on the laurels of her father who was a highly respected, beloved, renown career politician in Baltimore city. But she stands on her own feet as a woman passionate and loyal to the people of Baltimore. These leaders will need our prayers as they move to create reform in a city that desperately needs it.

The truth of the matter is that the impoverished communities within Baltimore need a ray of hope. When we consider 75% of children are being raised by single mothers and 80 to 90% of third graders are reading below grade level, the future seems bleak. Hope is lost because there seems to be no way up or out. I have been in homes in south Baltimore with single mothers raising six children with all manner of behavioral issues related to Hyperactivity and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD), and for them there seems to be little to no hope. When people loose hope they loose everything. When their environment is infested with crime, poverty, abandoned homes, low test scores, and then that is exacerbated by pervasive police brutality, the proverbial top will be blown of the can and we see what we just witnessed in Baltimore.

But here is the hope that we have and we must give to Baltimore and every major city that is a factory of hopelessness and despair: Jesus Christ. He is the only hope we have. He offers hope for justice in an unjust world. His message was and is still, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18). Jesus was passionate for justice and that is one of the reasons He threw the money changers out of the temple. These money changers had conspired to defraud the people who came bringing their sacrifices to God. People were forced to pay inflated prices for animals in the temple courts because the sacrifices they brought from home were disallowed by the system. Jesus is always on the side of justice. He fights for the oppressed and downtrodden.

Ultimately when we join the protest against injustice on earth we join the fight with Jesus.

Kudos to the pastors in Baltimore who stood up for justice and against tyranny and anarchy at the same time.

Ultimately our world being sinful will always create enclaves of injustice. We will always have a cause to march for or fight against, and we dare not faint in the face of it. But let’s be clear, the only place where justice will reign unopposed is in heaven, when our Lord shall come and vanquish all the broken systems of humanity and He shall reign forever and ever. This is our ultimate hope for the people of Baltimore and every place else.




Sabbath: Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Friday, May 1, 2015
Based Upon Exodus 31:12-13

As the Lord communed with Moses in the mount, He outlined His will for His people. He shared very detailed instructions concerning the commandments, judgments, and the building of the sanctuary. The sanctuary was of particular interest, because it was to become a catalyst by which the people of God would look to the coming Messiah as their only way into the presence of God. They were to see clearly through rites and ceremonies, how God would save them. It was the gospel preached to them in the wilderness for many years (Hebrews 4).

As God continued speaking to Moses, He unfolded a brilliant truth to him. God did not do it as though Moses was oblivious, but He did put emphasis on the matter. “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you.” (Exodus 31:12-13). In order to distinguish the Sabbath to which He referred from those ceremonial days instituted because of sin, He continued. “Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” (Exodus 31:15-17). In Ezekiel chapter twenty, the same truth is shared and is associated with the deliverance of God’s people from Egyptian slavery.

God’s seventh day Sabbath sign is a blessing, because it demonstrates His power. The One that sanctifies us is also the One who created everything. The One who created everything demonstrated His ability to deliver us from the bondage of sin in the exodus from Egypt. If God can create the worlds from nothing, He can certainly sanctify His people by delivering us from the slavery of sin.

Another great blessing is that all of the rites and ceremonies, including ceremonial sabbaths were completely eradicated at the cross of Jesus. He was the fulfillment of all of these things. He is the genuine article. Just as we are able to receive the blessings of the New Covenant made with the house of Israel, we are blessed to receive the sanctification demonstrated in God’s eternal seventh day Sabbath. You see, as we have faith in Christ, we are heirs according to the promise God made to Abraham. “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29).

The sign of God’s exclusive power to create, sanctify, and deliver from sin is still in tact. He is calling people all over the world to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Will you receive His sign? Will you be known in these last days as one who believes He still sanctifies? Pray that the Lord will teach you what His sign means and why it is important in these days